Lana Del Rey used to be known as Lizzy Grant, and her song “Trash,” a live performance of which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, is remarkable for its tacky narrator. She is pure trailer trash. Her fake nails are decorated with “pink tiger stripes.” Her hair is “high and white.” Her flower is tight. “Don't you want to come to my motel, honey?” she sings to a hick named Bill.
This Lizzy Grant — who has an edge and real stage-presence — is nothing like the Lizzy Grant you've been reading about, the one who Thought Catalog claimed made “pop music for bored college girls who shop at Anthropologie.”
As Hipster Runoff revealed in the fall, Lana Del Rey used to be a much different-looking person when she went by Lizzy Grant. Back then, she didn't look very “alt-sexy,” as they put it. Del Rey's Jan. 31 major-label debut album, Born to Die, has been overshadowed by this controversy.
These types of talking points have pretty much set the tone, as prominent music critics and blogs across the country dismissed Del Rey as a manufactured star who supposedly spent her pre-Born to Die days making tween pop. The Awl, in a more intellectual diss, said her older music was “earnest” and “heavy on the organ.”
But this isn't actually true. There are no organs or earnestness in “Money Hunny,” an acoustic Lizzy Grant recording. Here she tells the story of a policeman who threatens to arrest a dead man lying in the street.
And her taste in men has stayed consistent through all the face and name changes. In “Nothing More Gorgeous Than A Hundred Dollar Bill,” Grant sings: “I like them tough and mean/Jim is the worst that I've ever seen.”
These older songs aren't currently for sale, which is partly why so many people are suspicious of her. But live or recorded versions of the songs are easy to find on YouTube, some with close to half a million hits. Yet critics still argue that she barely has anything to show for her music career other than the recent, shaky Saturday Night Live performance. She's “riding high on the hype” and has “almost zero live experience” wrote Salon.
“Booked on the strength of her TWO SONG web EP,” complained news anchor Brian Williams in an email published by Gawker. “Yes, Mr. Williams, exactly, that is just the strength she was booked on,” goes a recent, dismissive New York Times review.
But that's not true either. By the time of her SNL gig, over 30 different Del Rey/Grant songs were uploaded to YouTube, most of them older songs, as Born to Die hadn't fully leaked yet.
And they were excellent. Lizzy Grant's music has a unique perspective: sympathy for the trailer trash slut.
On “Disco,” for example, Grant numbly accepts that she is only valued for her “prostitute stare.” With a hoarse voice and acoustic guitar, she sings: “I'll do what you like/I won't make a sound/I am my only God.”
We usually only hear about this character in music when popular rap singers are counting how many hoes they have. Maybe critics just aren't interested in music told from the hoe's point of view.